June 8, 2012

Cricket needs an outsider's view

There are those in business, and other sports, who constantly innovate in order to survive and to thrive. We could learn lessons from them
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I wonder if cricket is a bit incestuous sometimes, a little too insecure, a little too suspicious of those who inhabit other worlds. We hear the same voices, the same thoughts, the same emotions expressed, and yet the most dramatic changes in the game have come from those who brought a different perspective. Kerry Packer was a television man who understood what people wanted; T20 was conceived and propagated by marketing people who put their finger on a customer need. Both were cricket lovers who were not bound to a smaller world.

And so I feel we must look for people from different professions; sometimes they see things that we, with our bounded thoughts, might miss. My wife's boss once told me a certain Indian player would never be a good leader. He had seen his body language under stress, and being a fine leader himself, picked up on it straightaway. He was spot on.

Last week I found myself chatting with Venky Mysore, the articulate CEO of the Kolkata Knight Riders, who was given the task of turning around a team that had not just lost its way but one that had no clear identity.

The first thing Venky said was that the Knight Riders could neither be Team Ganguly nor Team Shah Rukh but had to be Team Kolkata. A personality can be charismatic but his aura can be short-lived. A team is like an institution, it must have an identity of its own. It must withstand changes in people and move on. Venky discovered, too, that the game needed to be sold. An India-England game at the Eden Gardens had been played to half-empty stands. You have to bring people to the ground, not assume they will turn up; you have to make it easy for them. And so the Knight Riders' tickets were home-delivered, and mobile vans drove round the city selling tickets. Cricket was brought to the people; stripped of its arrogance, it was telling the fan he was king.

It is not difficult to see where Venky is coming from. He had played cricket to a fairly decent level but had made his name in insurance where, as he says, "the customer is always king". He had to fill a large stadium eight times and that meant he and his team had to reach out to people. If the stands were empty, he could not depend on a grant to see him through; his profitability would suffer. And so he had to innovate. There is a simple lesson here for administrators who dole out money to Associates. When you know you are going to get a grant you become lazy and self-centred. When you need to earn to survive, you become innovative.

I saw another interesting innovation this week, and it came from chess. Viswanathan Anand was playing Boris Gelfand over 12 games. With the match level at one win each, the two played a rapid-chess format to determine the winner. They would have gone on to an even faster form if needed. I didn't hear protests that one form was too different from the other, and I wondered if, in case the final of the World Test Championship were drawn, we would be willing to play a one-day game or - sacrilege - a T20 match to determine the winner. It made me wonder if we fuss over formats too much. Maybe we are right, but from time to time it is good to question even that which seems right.

Maybe it is time to look at Test cricket from a more innovative and a less emotional point of view. Do you make tickets cheaper, subscription cheaper, even make it free on some days? Restrict Test cricket to more meaningful contests?

A couple of days ago the Hero Group, having ended their hugely successful joint venture with Honda, announced they were going to invest Rs 2550 crore (over US$400 million) on research and development to ensure that they stay abreast, ideally ahead, of competition, which could come from Honda itself, or Bajaj, or cheap cars, or a return of the good old scooter. They live in an open-market scenario, their existence depends on remaining competitive, and so they have to keep looking to the future at all times. They have to keep getting better.

Over the last year India lost eight overseas Test matches in a row, and it showed up inadequacies that could hurt the team even more in the future. Now I notice that India's great strength in spin bowling has declined to a point where the team may struggle at home as well. The writing was on the wall a long time ago, but Indian cricket has done very little - which is unlike a group that must plan for the future to survive. An outsider looking in would be amazed, and we need that kind of perspective right now.

There is another challenge brewing that the success of T20 has masked. Bubbling strongly under the surface is the rapid spread of football following in India. Team loyalties, even if the action is across the seas, are fierce, peer group involvement is huge, and, like with music, it is an indicator of how India is increasingly wired to the rest of the world. An alert marketer would immediately ask the question few seem inclined to ask. If the emphasis among youth is on shorter, more intense contests, will Test cricket become an anachronism? I suspect the cricketer and the marketer will respond differently to that question.

But it must be asked and another relevant question is: do people watch Test cricket or do they follow it? Do they buy a ticket, buy a TV subscription, or do they follow scores online? And as a result, do television companies and cricket boards actually make money from Test matches or are they subsidised by other forms? A one-day game earns, by a very simple calculation, five times as much as a day of Test cricket for a television channel. That suggests the news of the death of the one-day international is greatly exaggerated. From a long-term point of view, we need to cast emotion aside and ask if the form in greater danger is Test cricket or the one-day international.

You could, of course, continue to make losses on Test cricket, for it is not a crime to make a loss for a good cause, but you will also need to ask whether such losses can be sustained. Maybe it is time to look at Test cricket from a more innovative and - even if it comes from a die-hard lover of Test cricket - a less emotional point of view. Do you make tickets cheaper, subscriptions cheaper, even make entry to grounds free on some days? Restrict Test cricket to more meaningful contests (we are entitled to ask why it is essential for some teams to play Test cricket)? That a world Test championship was not found worthwhile by a very professional television network is an insight cricket needs to take on board.

My concern is that a more inward point of view is causing us to tinker with one-day internationals when they are indispensable to the health of the game and preventing us from looking Test cricket in the eye and asking tough questions. In a worst-case scenario, letting the ODI go could leave cricket with one form that could become anachronistic and another that could yield to a newer form.

For its health, cricket needs to look outward to the sharpest minds, to people who sustain and nurture brands and often take hard but necessary decisions. Cricket cannot be bound by cricketing minds alone.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 11, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    @grizzly, neither in the case of golf nor tennis does the longer (current) form dilute the intensity in favor or "just surviving". But if you make a tennis match last a week or a golf tournament last a quarter, it will. My point is that if you draw out ANY sport to a long enough duration, you will shift the focus from intensity to endurance.

  • jay57870 on June 10, 2012, 4:24 GMT

    (Cont) Golf's success is attributable to many factors. It has a solid legacy. It's transformed over time by leveraging technological advances (equipment, TV), shifting consumer demand (marketing, emerging nations) & innovations (different forms of play, course designs). Most importantly, it's a time-consuming day game that's become a popular professional sport by sticking to a time-tested constant slot of 4 days: Thursday to Sunday! This specific 4-day formula attracts the biggest fan/TV audiences. Some form of tie-breaker (sudden death or predetermined no. of holes) is used to determine eventual winner in case of tie in regulation time: A huge departure for a tradition-bound sport! This 4-day formula + tie-breaker concept is exactly what Test cricket must explore! Adjustments - like day-night play; Monday for tie-breaker if needed; T20 or rapid tie-breaker - could be evaluated. Think outside the box! No sacred texts! Golf experts could help in the benchmarking process: It's worth it!

  • jay57870 on June 10, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Harsha - Right on! An "outsider's view" - by benchmarking other industry best practices - can be invaluable in improving one's own business. The basic idea of "just-in-time" production at Toyota originated from the inventory-stocking process at American supermarkets. Cricket is a sports business: it can also learn from other sports. For example: Golf. Like cricket, it's an ancient "gentleman's game" requiring patience & skill in the individual battle of Club vs Ball. Golf is among the world's 10 most popular sports. Its wide reach transcends age, gender, even class these days. With more than 20 professional golf tours - incl. the iconic British Open, Australasia, Sunshine (SA), PGT of India & other Asian tours - the sport is well represented in cricket-playing nations. The Ryder Cup & President's Cup are team contests between USA & international teams. The major championships draw large followings on the fairways & huge TV audiences. Golf is one-up: it made the 2016 Olympics! (TBC)

  • bennybow on June 10, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    The ECB is run by people who aren't cricketers. They're businessmen although not exactly world beaters. Nothing very creative coming out of that bunch. The most obvious improvement for Test cricket in England is, next time someone spends millions developing a ground, could they possibly notice that it rains now and then and maybe adjust their design. ATM we have several grounds wide open to the heavens so when it rains - 1.no cricket 2. the spectators get soaked.

  • renegademike on June 9, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    Harsha Bhogle should understand that 'Lesser Profit' cannot be termed as 'Loss'. No broadcasting channel / company or for that matter cricket board is making financial losses by airing/organising Test matches. Its just that they're making more money in ODIs and T20s. and thats where the problem lie, the organisers and particularly the broadcasters want to make more money. All they're concerned about is their commercial break air time rates. test matches were played earliar as well wen their were even less spectators on the ground and even less commercial breaks during the game. And tell u wat, the broadcasters even then made money. But back then the sports channels actually wanted to show the game and not sell their commercial break airtime.

  • contrast_swing on June 9, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Well, Harsha wants us to trust the markt forces to determine the direction of cricket. He must have conveniently forgotten what market forces have done to the economy. I think that cricket is looking too much outside and there is not inner soul searching. Marketing people can sell a produce but first there should be a product. And Marketing people cannot make a product. You can bring crowd to the stadium on different pretexts. But what is more important and everyone is seeming ignoring that fact that are we doing enough to educate the crowd to appreciate good cricket. The marketing people who want to sell cricket see only sixes as selling point, one day crowd will be fedup and then what?? Marketing people will leave to sell other things having ruined a great human achievement we call cricket. The debate is not about T20 and ODI and TEst cricket. The debate is about the balance of the bat and ball and are we doing enough that people come the stadium to appreciate that.

  • chsj on June 9, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Test Cricket's major weakness or put-off is lack of results which again is owing to limitless overs to get that. The limit on overs can be put in like say max 100 overs per innings. Playing for a draw will certainly reduce with that. Also one should look at reducing the possibility of results plainly due to vagaries of pitches - say by playing 100 overs of each innings in two installments team 1 playing its first 50 following team2 playing its and so on. If a team manages to get 10 opposition wkts in 100 overs , the balance of overs can again be utilized by the bowling team. In four innings if no team bowls out the other team, the team taking more wickets can be the winner. If wkts taken are the same too, then run rate can be considered to decide winner. Only at the complete match-up of all these scenarios can there be a draw - which would be equivalent to a tie in current terms and can be as exciting.

  • Mr_Anonymous on June 9, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    At the end of the day: Eng Test Match: 243/9 in 89.4 overs (http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-west-indies-2012/engine/match/534205.html) IPL Match 1 ("Relatively" Low-scoring IPL game): 243/11 in 36.3 overs (what a coincidence in terms of runs) (http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/match/548371.html) IPL Match 2 ("Relatively" High-scoring IPL game): 409/10 in 40 overs (http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/current/match/548372.html)

    Watching Chris Gayle slam 13 sixes almost seemed necessary to get me out of the boredom of watching those 40 mins (and it worked!).

    I had not thought that I would be bearish on Test cricket before that day and while I am still not a big fan of T20 or IPL, in terms of thrill/entertainment/cricket that actually engaged me and that I wanted to watch, it was a no-contest.

    The "heart" still wants Test Cricket to thrive but the "brain" seems to say: "5 days for a game that could end in a draw, no thanks".

  • Mr_Anonymous on June 9, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    I was personally was a die-hard cricket fan with my favourite match being http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/63920.html. Until IPL5 (my first one viewing live), I was still hopeful for Test Cricket. One day (May 17, 2012) changed my worldview. I first watched a "low-scoring" game: http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/match/548371.html and it ended early and so had about 30-40 mins to kill before the next IPL match and for that time watched the first day of: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-west-indies-2012/engine/match/534205.html and then watched: http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/current/match/548372.html

    I could not believe it but I have to say that watching Test cricket was relatively "boring". Perhaps the best bowling attack (Eng) were resorting to bowling an outside offstump line (seemed like 3-4 balls out of 6) to a weakened WI (already 6 places below in rankings) especially to Chanderpaul. ...cont...

  • CricFan78 on June 8, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    " A team that wins a world test championship in a T20 tiebreak can not be called world test champions, because they haven't won a world test championship, they have won a T20 match " ... So by your logic a team which wins Football World Cup on penalty shootout is not a world champion?

  • on June 11, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    @grizzly, neither in the case of golf nor tennis does the longer (current) form dilute the intensity in favor or "just surviving". But if you make a tennis match last a week or a golf tournament last a quarter, it will. My point is that if you draw out ANY sport to a long enough duration, you will shift the focus from intensity to endurance.

  • jay57870 on June 10, 2012, 4:24 GMT

    (Cont) Golf's success is attributable to many factors. It has a solid legacy. It's transformed over time by leveraging technological advances (equipment, TV), shifting consumer demand (marketing, emerging nations) & innovations (different forms of play, course designs). Most importantly, it's a time-consuming day game that's become a popular professional sport by sticking to a time-tested constant slot of 4 days: Thursday to Sunday! This specific 4-day formula attracts the biggest fan/TV audiences. Some form of tie-breaker (sudden death or predetermined no. of holes) is used to determine eventual winner in case of tie in regulation time: A huge departure for a tradition-bound sport! This 4-day formula + tie-breaker concept is exactly what Test cricket must explore! Adjustments - like day-night play; Monday for tie-breaker if needed; T20 or rapid tie-breaker - could be evaluated. Think outside the box! No sacred texts! Golf experts could help in the benchmarking process: It's worth it!

  • jay57870 on June 10, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Harsha - Right on! An "outsider's view" - by benchmarking other industry best practices - can be invaluable in improving one's own business. The basic idea of "just-in-time" production at Toyota originated from the inventory-stocking process at American supermarkets. Cricket is a sports business: it can also learn from other sports. For example: Golf. Like cricket, it's an ancient "gentleman's game" requiring patience & skill in the individual battle of Club vs Ball. Golf is among the world's 10 most popular sports. Its wide reach transcends age, gender, even class these days. With more than 20 professional golf tours - incl. the iconic British Open, Australasia, Sunshine (SA), PGT of India & other Asian tours - the sport is well represented in cricket-playing nations. The Ryder Cup & President's Cup are team contests between USA & international teams. The major championships draw large followings on the fairways & huge TV audiences. Golf is one-up: it made the 2016 Olympics! (TBC)

  • bennybow on June 10, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    The ECB is run by people who aren't cricketers. They're businessmen although not exactly world beaters. Nothing very creative coming out of that bunch. The most obvious improvement for Test cricket in England is, next time someone spends millions developing a ground, could they possibly notice that it rains now and then and maybe adjust their design. ATM we have several grounds wide open to the heavens so when it rains - 1.no cricket 2. the spectators get soaked.

  • renegademike on June 9, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    Harsha Bhogle should understand that 'Lesser Profit' cannot be termed as 'Loss'. No broadcasting channel / company or for that matter cricket board is making financial losses by airing/organising Test matches. Its just that they're making more money in ODIs and T20s. and thats where the problem lie, the organisers and particularly the broadcasters want to make more money. All they're concerned about is their commercial break air time rates. test matches were played earliar as well wen their were even less spectators on the ground and even less commercial breaks during the game. And tell u wat, the broadcasters even then made money. But back then the sports channels actually wanted to show the game and not sell their commercial break airtime.

  • contrast_swing on June 9, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Well, Harsha wants us to trust the markt forces to determine the direction of cricket. He must have conveniently forgotten what market forces have done to the economy. I think that cricket is looking too much outside and there is not inner soul searching. Marketing people can sell a produce but first there should be a product. And Marketing people cannot make a product. You can bring crowd to the stadium on different pretexts. But what is more important and everyone is seeming ignoring that fact that are we doing enough to educate the crowd to appreciate good cricket. The marketing people who want to sell cricket see only sixes as selling point, one day crowd will be fedup and then what?? Marketing people will leave to sell other things having ruined a great human achievement we call cricket. The debate is not about T20 and ODI and TEst cricket. The debate is about the balance of the bat and ball and are we doing enough that people come the stadium to appreciate that.

  • chsj on June 9, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Test Cricket's major weakness or put-off is lack of results which again is owing to limitless overs to get that. The limit on overs can be put in like say max 100 overs per innings. Playing for a draw will certainly reduce with that. Also one should look at reducing the possibility of results plainly due to vagaries of pitches - say by playing 100 overs of each innings in two installments team 1 playing its first 50 following team2 playing its and so on. If a team manages to get 10 opposition wkts in 100 overs , the balance of overs can again be utilized by the bowling team. In four innings if no team bowls out the other team, the team taking more wickets can be the winner. If wkts taken are the same too, then run rate can be considered to decide winner. Only at the complete match-up of all these scenarios can there be a draw - which would be equivalent to a tie in current terms and can be as exciting.

  • Mr_Anonymous on June 9, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    At the end of the day: Eng Test Match: 243/9 in 89.4 overs (http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-west-indies-2012/engine/match/534205.html) IPL Match 1 ("Relatively" Low-scoring IPL game): 243/11 in 36.3 overs (what a coincidence in terms of runs) (http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/match/548371.html) IPL Match 2 ("Relatively" High-scoring IPL game): 409/10 in 40 overs (http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/current/match/548372.html)

    Watching Chris Gayle slam 13 sixes almost seemed necessary to get me out of the boredom of watching those 40 mins (and it worked!).

    I had not thought that I would be bearish on Test cricket before that day and while I am still not a big fan of T20 or IPL, in terms of thrill/entertainment/cricket that actually engaged me and that I wanted to watch, it was a no-contest.

    The "heart" still wants Test Cricket to thrive but the "brain" seems to say: "5 days for a game that could end in a draw, no thanks".

  • Mr_Anonymous on June 9, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    I was personally was a die-hard cricket fan with my favourite match being http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/63920.html. Until IPL5 (my first one viewing live), I was still hopeful for Test Cricket. One day (May 17, 2012) changed my worldview. I first watched a "low-scoring" game: http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/match/548371.html and it ended early and so had about 30-40 mins to kill before the next IPL match and for that time watched the first day of: http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-west-indies-2012/engine/match/534205.html and then watched: http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2012/engine/current/match/548372.html

    I could not believe it but I have to say that watching Test cricket was relatively "boring". Perhaps the best bowling attack (Eng) were resorting to bowling an outside offstump line (seemed like 3-4 balls out of 6) to a weakened WI (already 6 places below in rankings) especially to Chanderpaul. ...cont...

  • CricFan78 on June 8, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    " A team that wins a world test championship in a T20 tiebreak can not be called world test champions, because they haven't won a world test championship, they have won a T20 match " ... So by your logic a team which wins Football World Cup on penalty shootout is not a world champion?

  • Nampally on June 8, 2012, 21:19 GMT

    Harsha, You mention that "India's great strength in spin bowling has declined to a e point that team may even struggle at home". Is it any wonder when you have the Indian Captain benching Rahul Sharma in Tests as well as ODI's on English wickets where he would have revelled. The same goes for Ojha after he & Ashwin won the Test series against WI, for India with their spin. Dhoni prefers Jadeja to Ojha or Rahul. When there is only one place for a specialist spinner in the Test XI, India should question their Captain as to his irrational logic. Even Australia have better spinners than India has.Of course Pakistan plays with 2 off spinners + a leg spinners even in ODI & do very well.RH Leg spinner was India's trump card for decades - SP Gupte, Borde, Chandra, Kumble - all dominated in different decades + LH kings like V.Mankad, Durrani, Nadkarni, Bedi+ off spinners Ghulam Ahmad, Prasanna, Venkat- ruled supremly in England, WI, Australia & India. What is India's answer to these greats ?

  • on June 8, 2012, 20:04 GMT

    Cont'd. It could even be given more meaning by having the finalists go on to semi finals of a world chamionship. We also need to see some more teams playing test cricket. Countries such as Ireland, Namibia, Kenya and Afghanistan already have deep sporting and cultural ties with existing test playing nations and they are already playing cricket amongst themselves and against the leading nations anyway. IDEA B. This is win/win Link the DRS to over rates. Every team should be given 5 reviews per innings. BUT to keep these reviews they need to keep to their over rates. Fall behind on your over rates for one innings in your last five, you lose a review, fall behind in two innings, lose 2 reviews.. and so on. This will keep the on field action rolling and end in more correct decisions. Lastly there needs to be more fluidity in scheduling. Teams need to play-off to decide who's test champs every 12 months in a championship holder V highest ranked challenger match. We need interest!!!

  • on June 8, 2012, 19:38 GMT

    Cricket needs an outsider's view? Dear Harsha, what ever that view may be, it shall count for nothing unless the BCCI is enamoured by the ring of its bell.... Nevertheless here's a couple of ideas to give test cricket it's groove back. A. Abolish the FTP. Mandating tours and matches is not working, it will never work. As fans we need context, history and evenly matched encounters to firstly grasp and then to hold our attention through five days and a series. I'm sure if there was a test series between India and Pakistan or an Asian test championship being started next week you'd have incredible interest on the Subcontinent. Sadly, neither of these ideas even seem possible right now. An Asian test championship i'd imagine could even take in Afghanistan, making a five team competition, everyone playes each other once, two home games each with a final hosted by the top team at the end of the round robin, it need only take 5-6 weeks, brilliant! To be cont'd...

  • Nampally on June 8, 2012, 19:29 GMT

    The original game of cricket has undergone drastic changes during the past 3 decades with the introduction of ODI & T-20 format in addition to the Test format. That is a major innovation. The Test format needs one major change in the results category. No one wants to watch cricket with a draw at the end of 5 days.You can introduce awarding points for various attributes to make the final result conclusive, if it is a draw. Secondly,the example given of Venky is nothing new & is practiced in all sports. You are selling tickets to fans who are customers. So it is a business like any other. To draw fans to the game you have to market it.Also getting the under 18 fans interested in the game starts by giving tickets at half rate or even Free on say, on Day 4. Give freebees to first 10,000 fans at the gates.These are all sales gimicks (+ others) followed in N.American Baseball (MLB) games. BCCI is very rich but does not know how to promote the game. It is about time they learn from "Fans"!

  • on June 8, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    I wouldn't look to the Anand-Gelfand match for inspiration. That match has been widely derided in chess circles, and considered one of the worst world championship matches ever. Part of the reason for the criticism is that there were too few games at classical time controls, and the match ended up being decided by a rapid game, which many are calling a disgrace.

    A team that wins a world test championship in a T20 tiebreak can not be called world test champions, because they haven't won a world test championship, they have won a T20 match.

  • veeranx on June 8, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    I ran out of room from my earlier comment. So my India T20 team would be:

    Batters: Mandeep, Rahane, Sehwag, Gambhir, Vijay, Raina, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni, Dhawan, Badrinath or Yusuf

    Bowlers: Yadav, Zaheer, Aaron, Awana, Rahul, Ashwin, Jadeja, Ojha, *fill the rest*

    Pick a combination of the 11 fielders from the above list and mix the bowlers on the field with fielders outside this list.

    Why pay jadeja 2 mill when you can spread the money to more players and get better quality.

  • veeranx on June 8, 2012, 18:13 GMT

    Here is my opinion as an outsider. Test cricket is too boring for me to watch live. Never watched even when I was on vacation during my school/college days. I watch Highlights instead.

    One day cricket is sometimes too boring and long. I prefer highlights instead.

    T20 is good. However, there is scope for improvement. Take it the NFL way. Why should the fan waste the time watching a bowler bat and a part timer bowl? To give the audience their worth, give them the best 11 batters possible and 11 best bowlers possible and so on.

    Rule changes I propose: 1. A team can have 11 batters. 2. Team can have 11 bowlers. These can be different 11 from the above. 3. Team can have anyone in the field for fielding purposes not in #1 and #2. 4. Here is the kicker. You can have substitutes. If a batsman is unwell after the match starts swap him for another if he is not OUT yet.

    A team can potentially have 35 players. Though 25 might be an ideal number. 11 batters, 11 bowlers, 3 subs.

  • McGorium on June 8, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    It's unclear to me whether test matches *lose* money, or that they make lesser profits than ODIs or T20s. If it is the former, then regardless of how much subsidy ODIs or T20s can offer, there will come a time when boards pull the plug on tests. If it is the latter, the number of tests may be curtailed in favour of more ODIs/T20s, but there will be an occasional test series between nations in which it remains semi-viable, perhaps as an afterthought. We saw this with India maximizing ODI revenue by cutting back on tests, even before T20 era. Any capitalist economy apportions resources where ROI is maximized, and today it's T20s. While saddening as a test cricket lover,it must be accepted. It's no reflection on tests, but more a reflection on the market (i.e. paying public). J.K.Rowling might outsell Tolstoy, but there is no doubt on who is the superior author. Not everyone is made for Tolstoy or classical music. They're a niche, and like all niches, in short supply, for connoisseurs.

  • on June 8, 2012, 15:36 GMT

    Irrespective of whether any form of cricket is dying or not, I think we should quit looking at businesses as models for success. It's like we have gotten addicted to thinking that business houses are the only successful things in India ...and that somehow "outsiders" and thinking outside the box are like some kind of magic wand. Sometimes common sense is to just look at what used to work well ... reduce the number of T20's, get test cricket to coincide with traditional holidays or calendar months...get people to look forward to occasions, not over satiate people. And, for this, you need to look to people who understand and love the game. Not someone who's necessarily a success at something else. At times these days, I get the shivers just thinking of someone thinking outside the box :) We need to return to simpler, more logical, meaningful times ... when, for instance perhaps, you didn't judge body language as much ....

  • 30-30-150 on June 8, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Remove Test cricket for good. Its no more competitive. Home teams keep winning and away teams keep suffering whitewashes. Test cricket has become meaningless. Even GOLF would be far more exciting than watching a Test match.

  • grizzle on June 8, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    Ah of course. Another article touting (under various other pretenses) the impending death of Test cricket. Let me put it to you that it is T20 that is really under the cosh, since it is the fans of that game who want a fast-paced, over-before-you-know-it type of contest (?) that is a feature of football. Sweetspot: though I wholeheartedly disagree with your analogy, let me take it further and say that watching T20 is like watching the musician take his guitar and play tennis with it. Sameer Pradhan: Instead, let's play golf through 3 holes. Cut tennis slam matches to a game each, and the entire tournament to a day. Stipulate that no book be longer than 50 pages.

  • a1234s on June 8, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Quite a pedestrian article from Harsha. As an "outsider", not privy to the riches, I can easily tell that your standards have declined massively in the last one year.

  • eZoha on June 8, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    For centuries, cricket has been quite different from other team sports and it appeal is in that uniqueness. Hardly in any other team sports, a single person can fight with eleven others for hours and days. As far as I know Baseball was derived from cricket, so if we continually try to make cricket more entertaining, more fast faced, we may induce the risk of making cricket completely different from what we love now. Innovation like T20 is already going that way. Keep the balance between bat and ball equal by going back to sporting pitches, bigger boundaries and like, and cricket will be in good health.

  • Emancipator007 on June 8, 2012, 9:47 GMT

    As for Test cricket's purported extinction and non-popularity, I blame the Imperial Cricket Conference, not the ICC as we know it post '70s, for not helping the cause of Tests and for making it such an elitist preserve. If Packer and IPL (domestic T20 leagues) have been the "outside" revolutionary influences on cricket, I forsee a few more. From the unfettered capitalistic Yankees with 70 plus years of managing super-competitive, extremely professional, commercially successful leagues (albeit boring compared to cricket), from the exorbitantly wealthy Gulf Sheiks (possibly funding Pak T20 league in UAE) or from that outlier country China (with a massive population matching current cricket commerce leader India ) which desires to be no. 1 in any activity or pursuit it takes a fancy to. Be ready for other reverberations ready to stir or regenerate cricket in the next few decades.

  • Emancipator007 on June 8, 2012, 9:46 GMT

    Biggest joke being perpetuated by pundits,fans,players is the so-called impending death of ODIs Most of them don't realize that many players are eligible/ capable of playing only 1 format- ODI, not Tests as even T20Is are infrequent in no.If you disband ODIs, you are finishing international careers of Bopara,Samit,White,Christian,Oram,Styris, Franklin, Ryder,Kapudegara,Randiv,Perera, Afridi, Tanvir, Yuvraj,Raina,(these 2 should never play Tests again),Kiewswetter,Tsotobe, Parnell,Ingram etc. Administrators are surprisingly sagacious about this more than all the chirping from others (esp. Swann) in cricket fraternity &should ignore all calls for disbanding ODIs. Actually with the proliferation of T20s & their glut (in domestic leagues), an ODI nowadays almost seems like a mini-Test. ODIs need to be preserved at all costs. There is no other way for Tests to survive (my fav.) than thru subsidization from TV rights' revenue of ODIs & lucrative T20 leagues promoted by elite Test nations.

  • venkatesh018 on June 8, 2012, 9:21 GMT

    Sweet spot, Sameer Pradhan, which world are u from ? I bet U both have definitely not seen any Test match on a decent sporting Pitch(not your IPL feed the bowlers to the slaughter featherbeds) featuring skillful bowlers and batters, ever in your life.

  • on June 8, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    Soccer can also be played over 5 days.

    Have three 90-minute sessions in a day, with lunch and tea in between. Each session has 2 halfs, with a drinks break in between. Stipulate that in each session except the last, only goals scored by one of the sides will count. Alternate the attacking / defending teams each session. Same 11 players per side play all 5 days.

    Surely, a 5-day match is a better test of skill than a quick 90-min game!

    So... what will happen to the intensity? Players will be likely just walking around (if that!), mostly concerned about protecting their energy (read wicket). Yeah, they will try to score once in a while, maybe when they get a "good ball".

    Who will come to watch? As sweet spot aptly said, what is the use of watching pain? And try making that format financially sustainable!!!

    Wake up cricket administrators!! You have a firm grip on an empty sack!

  • sweetspot on June 8, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    Very true Harsha, but I don't think there is much to be learnt from every outsider success in other fields. Just let the Americans play this game and watch its metamorphosis! The day that happens at a certain critical number, will be the best and worst day for cricket! Test cricket is DEAD. It is like watching a musician prepare for a performance. We want the performance, not the preparation. What is the use of watching pain?

  • TheOnlyEmperor on June 8, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    The Tests, ODIs and T20s are different FORMATS of the game. Anand and Gelfand's championship went into a tie-breaker! Tennis and Soccer too have tie-breakers to resolve a stalemate situation. This is similar to that! Please don't get confused Harsha!

  • SouthPaw on June 8, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    Harsha,

    You talk about innovations from administrators, marketers and boards to boost the game of cricket. You miss out on one thing - innovations from the cricketers - people like Viv Richards (indirectly) attracted youngsters, including myself, to chew gum and develop a swagger, Shane Warne's "jaffa" brought so many to the cricket playing fields, so also Jayasuriya's "get 100 in the first 15 overs" strategy. There have been others like the Dil-scoop that are very innovative and helps the excitement of the cricketing arena to draw crowds - these are not for those who follow the score, but for those who follow the game and part-take in its growth. Yet, the ICC is looking at outlawing the switch hit!

  • S.Jagernath on June 8, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    The Idea of completing a drawn test championship final with a T20 would not be possible.A test championship is out to find the best team in terms of technique not on how hard they hit the ball.In that situation,India would most likely lose as their test players are not as strong as others.Test cricket is only struggling in the subcontinent.In South Africa,the fans banded together,lodged complaints & managed to get the boxing day test match back in the schedule.Test cricket cannot be in danger if fans are fighting for it.

  • on June 8, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    Yes it is very important that Cricket needs to looked upon by the people who are not associated with it directly..

  • montys_muse on June 8, 2012, 5:06 GMT

    I think too much commercialisation is killing off cricket. People are talking about Tests only because of Tv viewership and gate earnings, but not because of the quality. I think the worst quality of cricket is displayed in the ODIs which are predictable and hence so many rule changes to make it more interesting.

  • upendradixit on June 8, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    have to make it like classical music festivals - 4 day tests played Friday-Monday, fixed times in a year at selected centers, limit maximum number of overs played/innings, provide bonus points/runs for run rates and wickets taken, and associate with strong marketing (pre and post day meet the players, mini coaching sessions, food festival.....). Day night test can be tried but there is nothing to compete with daylight cricket. And yes, we must have ground coverage for rain to avoid washouts.

  • venkatesh018 on June 8, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    I agree with Harsha that Test cricket should be limited to series between countries of equal ability and skills. That is the only way it can(and it will) survive in this day and age. But I totally disagree that ODIs are indispensable to the cricket world. In this ever expanding schedule of International cricket, the ODIs are the least interesting because they neither have the entertainment value of the T20 or the skill levels and intrigue of the Test game. Simply because it is valued more by the broadcasters(i very much doubt it) over Test cricket, it doesn't mean they are the preferred format of the cricket watching public. Harsha, don't judge everything wearing a corporate's hat.

  • on June 8, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    Test cricket is a 10 team relic of the ancient world, the ICC and the Full members refusal to globalize the game over the past 100 years is their OWN downfall. T20 and ODI are the only formats that can move forward and be not only profitable in terms of ticket sales but also TV advertising. The games are meaningful, you have World Cups. Test cricket is just rankings, and rankings for a total of TEN teams is pretty pointless. Many cricket purist are trying to say the ODI is in danger, truth is EVERY country that host ODI's get greater turnouts by crowds for them then tests do these days. Time to face facts and move on with the future, Limited Overs cricet

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  • on June 8, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    Test cricket is a 10 team relic of the ancient world, the ICC and the Full members refusal to globalize the game over the past 100 years is their OWN downfall. T20 and ODI are the only formats that can move forward and be not only profitable in terms of ticket sales but also TV advertising. The games are meaningful, you have World Cups. Test cricket is just rankings, and rankings for a total of TEN teams is pretty pointless. Many cricket purist are trying to say the ODI is in danger, truth is EVERY country that host ODI's get greater turnouts by crowds for them then tests do these days. Time to face facts and move on with the future, Limited Overs cricet

  • venkatesh018 on June 8, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    I agree with Harsha that Test cricket should be limited to series between countries of equal ability and skills. That is the only way it can(and it will) survive in this day and age. But I totally disagree that ODIs are indispensable to the cricket world. In this ever expanding schedule of International cricket, the ODIs are the least interesting because they neither have the entertainment value of the T20 or the skill levels and intrigue of the Test game. Simply because it is valued more by the broadcasters(i very much doubt it) over Test cricket, it doesn't mean they are the preferred format of the cricket watching public. Harsha, don't judge everything wearing a corporate's hat.

  • upendradixit on June 8, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    have to make it like classical music festivals - 4 day tests played Friday-Monday, fixed times in a year at selected centers, limit maximum number of overs played/innings, provide bonus points/runs for run rates and wickets taken, and associate with strong marketing (pre and post day meet the players, mini coaching sessions, food festival.....). Day night test can be tried but there is nothing to compete with daylight cricket. And yes, we must have ground coverage for rain to avoid washouts.

  • montys_muse on June 8, 2012, 5:06 GMT

    I think too much commercialisation is killing off cricket. People are talking about Tests only because of Tv viewership and gate earnings, but not because of the quality. I think the worst quality of cricket is displayed in the ODIs which are predictable and hence so many rule changes to make it more interesting.

  • on June 8, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    Yes it is very important that Cricket needs to looked upon by the people who are not associated with it directly..

  • S.Jagernath on June 8, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    The Idea of completing a drawn test championship final with a T20 would not be possible.A test championship is out to find the best team in terms of technique not on how hard they hit the ball.In that situation,India would most likely lose as their test players are not as strong as others.Test cricket is only struggling in the subcontinent.In South Africa,the fans banded together,lodged complaints & managed to get the boxing day test match back in the schedule.Test cricket cannot be in danger if fans are fighting for it.

  • SouthPaw on June 8, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    Harsha,

    You talk about innovations from administrators, marketers and boards to boost the game of cricket. You miss out on one thing - innovations from the cricketers - people like Viv Richards (indirectly) attracted youngsters, including myself, to chew gum and develop a swagger, Shane Warne's "jaffa" brought so many to the cricket playing fields, so also Jayasuriya's "get 100 in the first 15 overs" strategy. There have been others like the Dil-scoop that are very innovative and helps the excitement of the cricketing arena to draw crowds - these are not for those who follow the score, but for those who follow the game and part-take in its growth. Yet, the ICC is looking at outlawing the switch hit!

  • TheOnlyEmperor on June 8, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    The Tests, ODIs and T20s are different FORMATS of the game. Anand and Gelfand's championship went into a tie-breaker! Tennis and Soccer too have tie-breakers to resolve a stalemate situation. This is similar to that! Please don't get confused Harsha!

  • sweetspot on June 8, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    Very true Harsha, but I don't think there is much to be learnt from every outsider success in other fields. Just let the Americans play this game and watch its metamorphosis! The day that happens at a certain critical number, will be the best and worst day for cricket! Test cricket is DEAD. It is like watching a musician prepare for a performance. We want the performance, not the preparation. What is the use of watching pain?

  • on June 8, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    Soccer can also be played over 5 days.

    Have three 90-minute sessions in a day, with lunch and tea in between. Each session has 2 halfs, with a drinks break in between. Stipulate that in each session except the last, only goals scored by one of the sides will count. Alternate the attacking / defending teams each session. Same 11 players per side play all 5 days.

    Surely, a 5-day match is a better test of skill than a quick 90-min game!

    So... what will happen to the intensity? Players will be likely just walking around (if that!), mostly concerned about protecting their energy (read wicket). Yeah, they will try to score once in a while, maybe when they get a "good ball".

    Who will come to watch? As sweet spot aptly said, what is the use of watching pain? And try making that format financially sustainable!!!

    Wake up cricket administrators!! You have a firm grip on an empty sack!